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 spotlight: Students honor "Big Jimmy"

Tributes cite his generosity, caring, dedication, and friendship to MIT students

  Home - MIT James E. Roberts Sr., known as "Big Jimmy," was the nightwatchman at MIT dormitories Senior House and East Campus for many years until he passed away suddenly this past Friday.

A beloved member of the MIT community, students and alumni remember Big Jimmy's dedication, caring, and friendship. In their tributes, students referred to him as a "guardian angel," "surrogate father," and "a beloved friend."

Joshua Lifton, a graduate student in the Media Lab and graduate resident tutor in Senior House, has put together a web site in memory of Roberts at

  • Christine Moran, a 2nd year student in Senior House wrote, "He was an amazingly dedicated watchman, counselor, and human being serving the MIT community with his generosity for countless years."
  • Madeleine Sheldon-Dante, also a 2nd year student, wrote, "He was a treasured part of the East Campus community and incredibly devoted to the student body. He would bring in food and homemade chili for us, stop to tell us stories, and give us advice. He always did what was best for other people."
  • Aaron Chang, an MIT alum, wrote, "Jimmy's heart was as big as his nickname suggested. For many students at MIT, studying deep into the cold and dreary nights, often alone, Jimmy's keychain and big smile at the door was a welcome sight. He always brought a smile to my face even when circumstances made it seem impossible. He made a difference in many students' lives and he will be sorely missed."
Roberts was a winner of the James N. Murphy award for his commitment to the MIT community. The award recognizes MIT employees whose contributions to the Institute community have endeared them to students. The nominators wrote, "Big Jimmy serves as protector, physician, counsellor and parent to MIT students in their hours of greatest need. He has saved lives directly through his cool and courageous actions and he may have saved lives indirectly through his kind words and deeds."

A small wake to celebrate and remember the life of James "Big Jimmy" Roberts will be held in Senior House at 8pm tonight (Tuesday) following the funeral service. All members of the MIT community are welcome to attend.

A resident of Brockton, Roberts leaves behind 2 children, 6 grandchildren, and hundreds of MIT "children."

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jim's memory to the MIT Scholarship Fund.

-by Susan Curran

Students honor 'Big Jimmy' with scholarship fund
Mural memorial
Boston Globe
Memorial service and photo gallery
  Jimmy promoting Fair Trade coffee
Big Jim, friend to students: from a recent poster campaign for Fair Trade coffee


A picture of a young Big Jimmy
A picture of a young Big Jimmy